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The tragic fate of Eritrean Christian

A recent report from the Middle East & North Africa Research & Advocacy describes the concerning situation of Christians in Eritrea. One of the main conclusions of the report is that Eritrea holds one of the worst religious freedom records in Africa and its government continues to crack down on religious activities in the country.


The only religious communities legally permitted to operate are: the Coptic Orthodox Church of Eritrea, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Church of Eritrea, a Lutheran-affiliated denomination, no new religious institutions have been officially recognised since independence.

Members of unregistered groups can be subjected to arrest and torture, they are usually released on the condition that they formally renounce their faith. NGOs and international media continue to report that members of all religious groups are subjected to government abuses and restrictions such as imprisonment and deaths in custody due to torture and harsh prison conditions and detention without explanation of individuals observing the recognised faiths.

Thousands of members of unrecognised Christian groups are currently in detention. Many Catholic and other religious-run secondary schools and medical centres have been forced to close, the government used a 1995 law prohibiting religious institutions from providing social services. The former Eritrean Orthodox Church Patriarch Abune Antonios is still confined to house arrest, where he has remained since 2006; the USCIRF reported in 2019 that the government continued to detain 345 church leaders and officials without charge or trial, while estimates of detained laity ranged from eight hundred to over one thousand.

Last year, the USCIRF designated Eritrea as “a country of particular concern”. The report cited that an average of at least two hundred people arrive in Ethiopia and Sudan daily. The government continued to maintain an indefinite requirement of citizens to participate in national service and restricted religious expression during that service. prayer, possession of religious books, and preaching also continue to be prohibited in prisons.

Thousands of Eritreans continue to flee their country each month to escape the pervasive repression. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), twelve per cent of the population had become refugees or asylum seekers as of June 2016.

In August 2018, CSW conducted a fact-finding visit to Ethiopia to investigate the situation of Eritrean refugees, the team met with many refugees in Addis Ababa and Shire province in Tigray in northern Ethiopia, home to nearly fifty thousand refugees live in five refugee camps and reception centres. 

Since returning to the UK, the Middle East & North Africa Research & Advocacy activists have been working with local churches to raise fund to help and we were hoping to return to visit them last year, but this has been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Middle East & North Africa Research & Advocacy

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